By Ernie Seon CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says an economic union within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean (OECS) must have the support of the parliamentary opposition within the sub-region.
Anthony, who is also chairman of the sub-regional grouping, addressed a meeting of OECS opposition legislators here on Friday called to update them on developments as they relate to the economic union and maintain a process of consultation and engagement.
The meeting will also address issues relating to the inauguration of the OECS Assembly, one of the principal organs through which the functions and business of the economic union will be realized.
“This meeting serves to confirm that there is in fact a new thinking underlying the governance of our region, and this is why it bears such significance.
“This meeting is an absolute necessity in the process of advancing the implementation of the OECS Economic Union, in building the consensus required to ensure “buy-in”, sustainability and eventual success,” Anthony said.
He said it is also “sends the requisite signals to the people of our respective countries, the wider region and indeed the world, that the leadership of the countries which constitute the OECS possess the maturity required by the times, are serious about advancing the interests of the people whom they represent, and are prepared to invoke the requisite political will to do that which is necessary to secure the advancement of those interests.
Prime Minister Anthony said that as members of the Opposition in their respective parliaments in the sub-region, they are identified under the Revised Treaty of Basseterre that established the economic union as principal actors within the OECS Assembly.
He said the governments have also been similarly identified and that the proposed Assembly, which will hold its inaugural session in Antigua in June, is expected to symbolise and concretise the involvement of OECS nationals in the union.
“Membership of the Assembly will therefore carry with it a heavy and sacred responsibility, since it is through the participation of the membership that the voice (the views and concerns) of the people of the region will find expression.
“It is to be expected therefore, that the OECS citizenry will be paying close attention to the deliberations of the Assembly to ensure that their hopes and aspirations for the region are being promoted and championed,” Anthony said.
Anthony said that while the OECS Assembly will be a deliberative body which will not have the capacity to make laws, it will nevertheless have the capacity to influence regional policy and legislation.
He said government and opposition legislators will be constituted as national delegations to the Assembly.
“The challenge for Assembly members would be to function not as Government and Opposition, or as adversaries arrayed against each other in pre-arranged blocs as is the custom, but as delegations from sovereign Parliaments working together to promote the regional interest even while representing and protecting the national interest.
“An additional challenge would be for members to resist the temptation to use the Assembly as a platform for playing out or resolving matters that are in the order of national partisan politics.
“It is hardly likely however, that such a situation will find favour with a sophisticated OECS citizenry. I have every confidence in our ability to rise to the challenges that will most certainly present themselves, and look forward with great anticipation to the Assembly’s deliberations,” Anthony said.
He told the meeting that the sub-region is in “unchartered territory”, faced with a truly unique and trail-blazing enterprise.
“We are travelling a road, and moving in a direction that no other grouping of Small Island Developing States has travelled before.
“Mindful of our peculiar circumstances, we have sought to build our own home-grown institutions and systems to address the myriad problems which our countries face as a direct consequence of small size and associated issues.
“We have recorded significant successes over the years, and in recent times have managed to attain major milestones in spite of resource and other constraints.”
These achievements Anthony noted include the signing of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, the operationalisation of the economic union and the implementation of the free movement provisions of the treaty within agreed deadlines.
“I have every confidence that the pace of achievement will continue. Your presence here today is testimony to your commitment to advance the process of implementation of the OECS economic union toward the attainment of the next milestone.
“I look forward to our engagement, but moreover, to your continued contribution to the development of the OECS region. Economic union does not belong to ruling parties, but to all of us, citizens and politicians alike,” Antony told the meeting.